I’m going to keep this one polite, in hopes that I can get the Washington Post’s Charles Lane to reply to my critique. Today, Michael Kinsley replies to Paul Krugman’s critique of Kinsley’s Harvard dining hall contrarianism with a column that, if I’m reading it right, says (a) I am not a sadist, (b) you are a jerk for calling me a sadist, and (c) therefore your anti-austerity ideas are “probably wrong”.
Austerian Charles Lane has been tweeting about this all afternoon, e.g.:
In journalism, or so I was taught as young reporter, you do not speculate on people’s motivations. You call them up and ask for comment (2)
— Charles Lane (@ChuckLane1) May 22, 2013
I have emailed Charles Lane several times, albeit not particularly politely, and unlike most of the national journalists I’ve emailed (rarely politely), he has never replied. I will tweet him to ask for a comment on this.
Charles Lane has consistently written in favor of austerity. This is a position that is primarily staked out by conservatives. He has also written various things that suggest he favors conservative presidential candidates. Here he is comparing Sarah Palin to Sandra Day O’Connor, wondering:
Maybe there’s something about growing up in a challenging, male-dominated physical environment (desert, tundra), in a family where everyone’s expected to get his or her job done (and there’s no time for drama, fuss or introspection), that turns certain girls into very confident women…
And here is his electoral college prediction on the eve of the 2012 election:
It includes NH and WI as “toss-ups”. These are states that Obama won by 6 and 7 points, respectively. Likewise, it includes OR as only “leans Obama” (apparently on the basis of one poll where Romney was close); Obama won OR by 12 points. (EDIT: Also too, CO “leans Romney” for Lane but Obama won by 5.5).
Lane’s pro-austerity, anti-Krugman articles rarely contain any numerical figures, and thus they cannot be judged from a strict quantitative perspective; they typically glorify some ostensibly pro-austerity dead intellectual luminary, like economist James Buchanan or political scientist Mancur Olson, but without numbers or measurement of any kind.
Given the absence of any quantitative evidence in favor of austerity in Lane’s columns, the absence of any comment from Lane on why he supports austerity, and the existence of much evidence that Lane favors conservative politicians, it hardly unfair to conclude that it is possible Lane favors austerity simply because he favors conservative policies more generally.
I suppose the reply, if there is one, will be “I don’t always vote for Republicans!” But what does that prove? Until austerians like Lane do better than (a) eat your spinach or (b) Paul Krugman is a meanie or (c) dead luminary X probably would have liked austerity, I will continue to question their motives for supporting austerity.
But I’ll wait for reply from Lane (I encourage you to contact him via Twitter as well) before reaching any firm conclusions.